A 23-year-old woman killed two fellow students, also female, with a .357 revolver in a classroom at a vocational college in Baton Rouge, La., Feb. 8, then committed suicide, police said.
It was the second fatal shooting tragedy to afflict the Louisiana Community and Technical College System in five years. On April 7, 2003, a 22-year-old male student shot a fellow student to death and wounded another in Natchitoches, La., about 60 miles southeast of Shreveport.
This time the women apparently were shot as they sat in a second-floor classroom at Louisiana Technical College, Baton Rouge Sgt. Don Kelly said. About 20 people were in the emergency medical technology class at the time, he said.
“Why those two women were targeted … is still an unanswered question,” Kelly said.
The victims were identified as Karsheika Graves, 21, and Taneshia Butler, 26, both of Baton Rouge. The shooter was Latina Williams, whose address was unknown, Kelly said.
Williams entered the room briefly, spoke with the instructor and left, he said.
She returned through another door and fired six rounds, Kelly said, reloaded and shot herself in the head.
Officers ran into the building within four minutes of the first 911 call, which came at 8:36 a.m., Kelly said.
“There was mass pandemonium, people running,” he said. “One officer — the first into the classroom — told me he could still smell gunpowder.”
The school — one of two LTC campuses in Baton Rouge and dozens around the state — offers classes in a dozen subjects including early childhood education, practical nursing, drafting, and welding.
School administrators and campus police did not immediately return calls or eMails.
Louis Davis, who said he was taking an automobile technology class the morning of the shootings, said a teacher told students to stay in class because there had been an incident, without adding details. Students had to stay in their classrooms for about two hours and were briefly questioned by police before being released for the day, he said.
Classes were canceled through Feb. 12, and tentatively scheduled to resume Feb. 13, said Jim Henderson, vice president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.
“This is a tragic day for Baton Rouge, when you come to a learning institution … and become the victim of a violent crime,” Mayor Kip Holden said at the scene.
In an unrelated incident in Greenville, S.C., a student was shot in the leg at Greenville Technical College, but told police it was a self-inflicted accident, a campus official said. The wound was not life-threatening, said Brad Majors, the college marketing director. Majors said campus police and city police would continue to investigate.
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Joe D. May, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, issued the following information at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 8:
“Earlier today, a shooting at the Baton Rouge Campus of the Louisiana Technical College resulted in the death of three young women. I know that you join with me in expressing your condolences and support for the families of these women.
“I want to begin by acknowledging the rapid and professional response of Dr. Kay McDaniel, Regional Director for the LTC Region 2, and her staff in handling this tragedy. I want to express sincere appreciation to Chief Jeff LeDuff, and the officers of the Baton Rouge Police Department for their handling of this situation. Additionally, the faculty, staff, administration, and students greatly appreciated the support provided by Senator Sharon Weston Broome, Senator Yvonne Dorsey, and Representative Regina A. Barrow. These individuals were on site for most of the day.
“Below is an update on the situation. As of the time that I am writing this email, the names of the victims have not been released by the Baton Rouge Police Department. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office at (225) 922-1643 or Kizzy Payton, Director of Public Relations for the LCTCS at (225) 922-2391 or on her cell at (225) 939-6911.
“About the event
* The incident occurred at approximately 8:30 a.m., on Friday, February 8, 2008.
* The Baton Rouge Police Department and the LTC Baton Rouge campus responded quickly upon receipt of multiple calls.
* The college immediately activated its emergency response plan to protect students, faculty, and staff.
* Baton Rouge Police arrived within two minutes of the initial notification.
* The Baton Rouge Police Department is conducting an investigation of the events.
* The names of the two victims and shooter have not been released to us at this time.
We have, however, been informed that they were three females, ages 21, 23, and 26.
* All reports indicate that this was a murder/suicide and all of the events were isolated in one classroom.
* We believe that the two victims and the shooter were all Louisiana Technical College students. This will be verified once the names are released.
“LTC Emergency Response
“The leadership of the LTC Baton Rouge Campus, in response to the shooting incident, executed an emergency response plan that focused first and foremost on the safety and security of their students, faculty, and staff.
“The LTC Baton Rouge Campus has the following security measures installed on their campus:
* The college has two full-time campus security guards who work in shifts from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
* Security alarms are installed throughout the building
* The college has provided the mandated safety training for its employees in workshops and through on-line training sessions.
* The college-issued safety manual for the campus covers violence in the workplace.
* As part of freshman orientation, students are informed of the school’s emergency response plan. Faculty members also receive a notice at the beginning of the semester to read to students about the school’s emergency plan.
* The LTC Baton Rouge Campus will remain closed until Wednesday, February 13, 2008. This may change, however, depending on when the funerals are scheduled.
* We will be meeting with the faculty and staff on Tuesday, February 12, 2008 to assist them in working with their students upon returning to class.
* Counseling services have been made available to students, faculty, and staff members.
“I will continue to provide you with updates and information as it is made available.
“Update: 1:00 p.m.
“The LTC Baton Rouge Campus is working with counselors to determine how best to support students throughout this process. The LTC staff would like to reiterate that counselors are available to meet with students, faculty and staff.
“The following counseling agencies are available:
“The Capital Area Human Services District is ready to help any student/faculty/staff that needs assistance today – they may go to the Clinic that is located at 4615 Government Street and identify themselves as a student/employee of the Baton Rouge Technical Campus.
“The Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center is ready to take any and all calls from students, faculty and staff beginning today. The number to call is 225-924-3900.
“I CARE Counseling Program is available to assist students/faculty/staff. The number to call is (225) 226-2273.
“Updated 12:00 p.m.
“Presently, the LTC is cooperating fully with the Baton Rouge Police Department in their investigation. A press conference was held at 11:09 a.m. at the Louisiana Technical College Baton Rouge campus to provide information on the current status of the situation.
“As reported, the Baton Rouge Police Department and the LTC Baton Rouge campus responded quickly to the call for help. The school immediately activated its emergency response plan to protect students, faculty, and staff. Baton Rouge Police responded within two minutes of the initial notification.
“At the moment, the following information is known about the victims. The two victims and shooter were students at the LTC Baton Rouge Campus. Their identities have not been released at this time, but their ages are known – 21, 23, and 26.
“The Baton Rouge Police Department is still conducting a preliminary investigation. At this time, a motive is unknown.
“Updated 10:04 a.m.
“The leadership of the Louisiana Technical College Baton Rouge Campus in response to a shooting incident this morning executed a carefully considered emergency response plan that focuses first and foremost on the safety and security of students, faculty, and staff.
“Presently, the Baton Rouge Police Department is onsite conducting their investigation and LTC Baton Rouge administrators are coordinating with the police department on the safe dismissal of students. “
ICare Counselors are currently on-site providing support for students, faculty, staff, and family members. Classes have been canceled for the remainder of the day.
“An announcement will be made regarding classes resuming for next week.
“Our prayers are with the families of these victims.”